Tankersley, Bradberry to duel in Game 1

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2001

[04/27/01] Fans wanting a preview of June’s Mississippi Class 4A/5A All-Star game need only to spend $4 Friday night.

Nine players selected to play in the postseason contest will be on display in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs’ second round when Warren Central (30-3) will battles Madison Central (22-5).

Six players from Madison LSU signee Chamar McDonald, Mississippi State signee Brian Johnson and Delta State signees Brett Byrd, Mark Grogan, Bo Bradberry and Chris Ingle earned spots on the all-star roster.

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Alabama signee Taylor Tankersley leads three Vikings who earned spots on the team. Kevin Coker, who is being recruited by several Division I schools, and Meridian Community College signee Brent Towne also made the team, which will be coached by WC’s Sam Temple.

The way these two have matched up this year, the best-of-three series could become an all-star event in itself.

Tankersley (10-0, 0.28 ERA in 75 innings) is expected to get the starting nod in tonight’s 6:30 game. The senior beat Madison twice this season, both 1-0 decisions.

In both games, the Jaguars outhit Warren Central, but baserunning mistakes made the difference.

In the first game, three bunt attempts including one on a squeeze play failed. A failed squeeze attempt in the second game, just a week after the first, doomed Madison’s chances again.

MC coach Mike Rosamond said getting runs off Tankersley is hard enough, but when the team is not executing, the task is twice as difficult.

“He’s just a good pitcher,” Rosamond said. “He locates well, holds runners on … He knows how to pitch.”

The Jaguars are expected to throw either Bradberry or Blackledge in the series opener. Bradberry (8-2, 0.79 ERA), a senior, handcuffed WC with a biting slider, but Blackledge (6-1, 0.50 ERA) has the advantage of being a lefty. Southpaws have handed WC all three of its losses this year.

“We’ve got a little nasty feeling running around in our mouths about playing them twice and producing one run each time. … The same thing has to be said about them because they’re sitting over there not having scored a run off us in two games,” Temple said. “They have to have a little bad taste in their mouths, too.

“You’ll see two teams out here that offensively want to prove something to each other.”

Carl Upton (9-0, 1.16 ERA) is expected to get the nod in Saturday’s second game at Madison. Brian Pettway (4-2, 2.22 ERA), WC’s No. 2 pitcher, said Wednesday his arm was feeling better. He was throwing in the bullpen and is expected to see time in the series.

Pettway has been hampered by a tender ankle, sore elbow and was hit in the eye with a ground ball during warmups a week ago.

“We said it started from the bottom and has gone right out through the top and now it’s all gone,” Temple said with a chuckle.

Whether Tankersley can come back for a possible third game on Monday is in question. State testing forced the series to start on Friday instead of Thursday, as was originally planned.

Administrators from both schools, with the permission from the Mississippi High School Activities Association, tried to change the game to Thursday, Temple said.

Pettway (.485, 18 doubles, eight home runs and 43 RBIs) leads the Vikings’ offensive machine, followed closely by shortstop Joey Lieberman (.400, nine homers, 41 RBIs) and Coker (.383, nine doubles). The Vikings’ starting nine are hitting .349.

Madison is led by LSU signee Chamar McDonald, who is hitting .507, with eight doubles and four home runs. Delta State signee Brett Byrd is hitting .365 with seven doubles, and Mark Grogan is hitting .348 with 13 doubles.

Tankersley said shutting down the Jaguars’ offense will be a key to the Vikings’ chances of advancing to the North State Championship Series for the first time in school history.

“I have to keep them off the board as best I can and my hitters have to come through on RBI situations,” Tankersley said. “We have to get some more rallies going, not just score one run and expect to win.”

Tupelo, which eliminated Vicksburg in two games, will match up with Clinton, a surprise series winner over two-time defending state champion Southaven, in the other North semifinal.

Temple said the WC-Madison series is one of the most attractive playoff series this season and he expects an overflow crowd at Viking Field.

“If you love high school baseball and have nothing to do on Friday, this is the place to be,” Temple said.